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|$2 million sought for boll weevil|
Reduced cotton acreage around the state has produced a $2 million shortfall in Louisiana's boll weevil eradication program.
State Rep. Noble Ellington said he has made finding that money one of his top priorities during the 2008 regular session of the state Legislature.
The Legislature began its regular session in Baton Rouge on Monday.
Ellington's quest for additional boll weevil eradication funding is just one of some 1,900 proposed bills and constitutional amendments making their way through various committees this session.
Ellington said the shortfall was not due to poor planning on the part of the state or increased costs of eradication. Instead, Ellington pointed to record corn and soybean prices as the cause.
"Due to a tremendous drop in cotton acreage, it's left us a few dollars short," said Ellington, D-Winnsboro. "The farmer contributes to the fund as well, around $5 or $6 an acre."
In short, Ellington said farmers are planting less cotton, which means less money to conduct the required maintenance spraying.
Boll weevils came to the United States from South America in the late 1800s. By the 1920s, the small insect had devastated cotton farming throughout the nation.
A boll weevil eradication program was introduced by the federal government in 1978 and, in cooperation with state agriculture agencies, Ellington said the bug has been "virtually eliminated."
"We have basically eradicated the bowl weevil," Ellington said. "But you have to have a maintenance program whereby, when some are found, we can take care of them."
State Sen. Neil Riser said he is working to ensure continued funding for museums in Ferriday and Columbia in the event that House Bill 311 becomes law.
Under the proposed bill, all state-funded museums would fall under the purview of the lieutenant governor's office, as part of tourism.
Funding for individual museums would no longer be done by specific appropriations. Instead, funds would be doled out by officials in Baton Rouge.
At the same time, the administration of Gov. Bobby Jindal has proposed budget cuts to museums around the state.
Riser said he understood the need for fiscal restraint but also recognized the economic impact rural museums have on communities in his district.
"The administration is looking at making cuts and one area they are looking at cutting are museums," said Riser, R-Columbia. "It's a priority to me that the museum in Ferriday and the other museums in our district remain open."
Ellington said he was also watching HB-311, but said he might support consolidated funding proposals if the circumstances protected rural museums.
"If we could find a place and our museums would fall in there as one that needed to be funded, I think I would be fine with that," Ellington said. "But if they're going to leave us out, and there is a tendency to want to overlook rural areas, then I don't suspect I'll be for it."